Inner-city boom in house approvals as fringe fades
STATE BUDGET: Money for Prahran school study
1 May 12 @ 04:30pm by Greg Gliddon
THE first steps to a Prahran High School have been taken with the Coalition State Government allocating $200,000 for a feasibility study into the long-awaited education facility.
But it is only the first step in a long process which started back in the 1990s when the last school in the region was closed.
Prahran State Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown said he was thrilled the commitment had been made.
“I’m just over the moon. Of all my commitments, it was the one I was most determined to deliver.
“Now we can move onto the next stage. My goal is there will be a school in Prahran.’’
Stonnington councillor Tas Athanasopoulos, a strong advocate for education in the community, said he was pleased that finally something had been done.
“I welcome the funding for a feasibility study, but $200,000 is a lot of money to tell us what we already know,’’ Cr Athanasopolous said
“The problem won’t be fixed until we get a school.’‘
For full State Budget coverage read next week’s Stonnington Leader.
WESTERN suburbs parents are sending their children to schools as far as 30km away due to a lack of secondary school options in the area.
This week’s Leader report, “Bursting at the seams”, reveals schools around the metro area are struggling to cope with an increasing number of enrolments, with parents frustrated by overflowing classrooms and a lack of choice.
In one case, a family moved from Melbourne’s west to Torquay because of a lack of secondary school options in their area, while a Hillside father would rather send his daughter 30km away to Bacchus Marsh.
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In Maribyrnong, the SKY High group is lobbying the Government for the return of a high school in the Seddon/Kingsville/Yarraville area.
It has been pressing the State Government after Labor commissioned a study that put the issue on the backburner.
SKY High spokeswoman Susan Douglass said the group was now waiting on 2011 Census data to strengthen its case.
“(The reason for the demand) is really based on the population increase, or you might say gentrification of the area,” Ms Douglass said.
“We’ve been fighting for this for close to 10 years and it is only going to increase.
“We need a local secondary college.”
Ms Douglass said local grade 6 students went to 28 different schools after graduating, some to as far as St Kilda and Richmond.
“A lot of young families have moved in over the past 10 years,” Ms Douglass said.
“The three primary schools have been zoned and you could say they are bursting at the seams.
“Right now we’ve got solid growth.”
Keddie Bell-O’Connel is an ex-Yarraville mother of two who moved to Torquay to enjoy better secondary school options.
“There is a group of around 15 ex-SKY families living around Torquay and Geelong who moved here because there’s no local secondary college in SKY,” Ms Bell-O’Connel said.
Their children attend Torquay college, which has just become a P-9 school.
Students sweat on new school in ‘disgraceful’ conditions
Member Western Victoria Region Gayle Tierney raised in parliament last week the “utterly disgraceful” conditions at Torquay.
“For every day the Government fails to fulfill its promise, major impacts are being felt on the campus,” Ms Tierney said.
“Because of the staggered lunch and recess times, students in physical education classes are forced to share sports grounds with students on their lunch and recess breaks. Because of substandard power, a set of portable classrooms was without air-conditioning.
“After 15 months of complete and utter debacle by the Baillieu Government on the new Torquay secondary school, the community’s question of when (its) new school will be ready continues to remain unanswered.”
Liberal South Barwon MP Andrew Katos announced in May that the Government would provide Torquay with its “largest ever” education investment on a new secondary college and land for a second state primary school.
Torquay College council vice president David Bell said the Government made an offer last week to buy land for the secondary school.
“An announcement on the new school is imminent,” he said.
Mr Katos had not responded to the Independent’s request for comment before the paper went to press on Wednesday afternoon.
Housing developers and primary school principals have intensified pressure on the state government to reopen a high school in Coburg by joining a parent campaign for a new college.
The developers are poised to build apartments and family-sized houses in the suburb as part of a $1.5 billion revitalisation of the area, known as the Coburg Initiative. But Equiset Grollo Group and Satterley Property Group are worried about feedback from young families, who are annoyed there is no co-educational year 7-12 secondary college in the suburb.
“Virtually every customer we profile asks where the school is,” says Satterley senior development manager Guy Williamson, whose company will build 400 houses on the former Kodak factory site by 2014 — 90 per cent of the houses will have three bedrooms.
“There’s a big demand for a high school and it’s going to grow. We regularly meet with local community groups, they’ve all got young kids. A lot of professional people are moving into the area with a young family or with the intention of having a family.”
Satterley, Equiset Grollo and the developers of the former Pentridge prison site, Pentridge Village Centrale, have written to a parent lobby group, High School for Coburg (HSC), supporting its long-running campaign for a year 7-12 government high school in the suburb.
Even the developer of a housing and retail complex on the former Coburg High School site in Bell Street, Hamton, has written a letter of support.
Equiset is a strategic partner in the Coburg Initiative, a project devised by Moreland City Council in response to the former state government’s urban renewal program. The initiative and other council urban renewal projects aim to create 12,950 extra jobs and 6000 new houses in Coburg within 20 years.
Equiset’s development director, Jon Purcell, says the company has also raised concerns about the lack of a high school in its meetings with officials from the state government’s planning department. “If a high school isn’t created, then people with young families aren’t going to be attracted to living in the area or staying,” he says.
Meanwhile, some primary school principals in Coburg have written to state Education Minister Martin Dixon, urging him to open a secondary school.
The principals of St Paul’s Catholic Primary School and Coburg Primary School are frustrated by the increasing difficulty of finding places for their grade 6 students moving to government secondary colleges in surrounding suburbs. A population boom in the nearby suburbs of Brunswick, North Carlton, Northcote, Thornbury and Strathmore has prompted high schools in those areas to tighten their enrolment policies.
Coburg has a senior high school catering only for students in years 10-12. About 218 students attend Coburg Senior College on the site of the former Moreland City College, which had capacity for 1100 pupils. “Coburg Senior College is a huge property with state-of-the-art facilities and it’s more than capable of having year 7-9 students as well,” says Jenny Strachan, principal of Coburg Primary. “All of the local primary schools are seeing enrolment growth because of the baby boom in Coburg.”
Moreland councillors also recently voted to write to Mr Dixon and Planning Minister Matthew Guy, urging the government to provide a school for years 7-9.
The High School for Coburg group has surveyed 430 local families with 830 children about their preferences for schooling. About 65 per cent of the families want the senior high school in Alva Grove converted to a year 7-12 college. The lobby group met Mr Dixon earlier this year to discuss the issues.
On Friday, Mr Guy held a meeting with the group and officials from Moreland and Darebin councils.
HSC spokeswoman Cate Hall says expanding the senior college would be the most cost-effective solution. “The site is clearly underutilised and parents believe the secondary schools to our north are too far away and not easy to get to by public transport.”
Last year an Education Department report into future demand for state secondary schooling in the area showed a shortage of places for students in years 7-9 in Coburg and surrounding suburbs by 2016, with demand predicted to grow.
The report, based on 2006 census data, predicts the number of secondary school-age children in the zone around Coburg Senior High School will rise from 5200 this year to almost 5700 by 2021.
It says an extra 2700 students in years 7-12 could be catered for by erecting portable classrooms on many school grounds, and a few nearby schools had small enrolments and could take more pupils. But Ms Hall says the report underestimates demand, because it fails to take into account the influx of families and the increase in medium-density housing built since 2006.
Whatever your political leanings, it is hard not to appreciate the exquisite irony of the situation in which Clem Newton-Brown, the state Liberal member for Prahran, finds himself.
Mr Newton-Brown is scouting for locations in his electorate for the Baillieu government to build a new state secondary school. Fifteen years ago the only open entry state high schools in the electorate, Ardoch Windsor College and Prahran High, were shut by Jeff Kennett’s Liberal government.
Now population and apartment growth in the area has led the Baillieu government to promise a $200,000 feasibility study for a new school.
Once a shortlist of potential sites on private and Crown land is drawn up, Mr Newton-Brown hopes the government will announce the study in next year’s state budget.
“In the inner city you can’t expect to buy five acres of land for a high school and an oval,” he says. A new school is more likely to be multistorey, next to parkland where students might share the space with other residents. “That happens already at Toorak Primary School where it uses the park next door as part of its playground. It causes some angst for some residents but there’s a need to make compromises and share open spaces.”
The electorate’s shortage of state schooling is being repeated across inner Melbourne and some middle-ring suburbs as the city’s population soars. Melbourne is growing by more than 1500 new residents a week. The metropolitan population of more than 4 million is tipped to rise to 5.6 million by 2026. Developers, encouraged by government policies and the increasing popularity of inner-city living among young couples, have embarked on an unprecedented flurry of apartment and townhouse building. At Forest Hill, near South Yarra Station, more than 20 separate projects — with 2400 apartments and worth almost $2 billion — are in various stages of planning and development.
The Baillieu government’s decision to favour urban renewal projects is set to turbocharge the high-density trend. An area more than twice the size of Docklands at Fishermans Bend, near the West Gate Bridge, will be transformed into a suburb housing tens of thousands of people. Disused rail yards in West Melbourne will be redeveloped for up to 12,000 residents. Melbourne’s racecourses are also becoming a focus for residential development: $1 billion of residential towers have been approved at Caulfield and a $1.4 billion redevelopment is planned for Moonee Valley.
Planning specialists and school principals say communities are reaping the legacy of the former Kennett government’s decision to sell off many of the 350 schools it shut. At the time population growth was modest and most inner-urban residential developments were small scale. But in recent years the much bigger scale of residential towers and projects has radically altered the suburban landscape, straining the capacity of schools to cope with extra students.
In the City of Port Phillip, double-storey portable classrooms have been erected on limited playground space at Port Melbourne, Albert Park and Middle Park primary schools. At Port Melbourne enrolments have jumped from 122 in 2002 to 451 this year. Peter Martin, the school’s principal, says so far 135 children have applied to enter prep next year and a second double-storey portable will arrive soon. “It’s not just schools in Port Phillip that have major enrolment pressures, others are facing similar issues,” he says.
A study by Professor Kevin O’Connor, Melbourne University’s professor of planning, estimates at least seven new primary schools will need to be built in six inner urban municipalities by 2016 to cater for the rising number of primary school-aged children.
He says the state government could ease the supply problem by making all residential developers pay a contribution fee towards the cost of building new schools or other social infrastructure. Under current state planning laws only developers of large outer urban housing estates have been required to pay such a contribution fee.
“We already charge developers for outer area provision so why aren’t we charging developers for inner urban services?” asks Professor O’Connor. “As the inner city population begins to realise they’ve paid high real estate prices for terrible school access, the pressure will intensify on government.
“Part of our planning problem is that we’ve had land use planning done by one group — the government’s Planning Department — and school planning done by the Education Department. In the outer suburbs, the departments’ efforts are much more co-ordinated.”
There are signs that developers are heeding community disquiet about infrastructure and that they have learnt valuable lessons from the Docklands development, which continues to be criticised for its inadequate community amenities.
“The popularity of inner city living will mean that the government will have to revisit the way development is conducted in inner Melbourne in conjunction with councils and developers,” says Tony De Domenico, executive director of the Victorian arm of the Urban Development Institute of Australia. “We will have to negotiate this change to upgrade and develop existing or new facilities . . . Perhaps schools can be part of a new building itself, like they are in the US and Europe.”
In May, the state government announced an overhaul of the developer contribution scheme and has set up an advisory group that includes councils and developers. It will soon establish an urban renewal authority to oversee new inner-city developments.
Mr De Domenico hopes the authority will have a similar role to the Growth Areas Authority, established in 2006 to bring councils, state departments and developers together to plan outer urban growth.
So far state Education Minister Martin Dixon has reaffirmed the government’s election pledge to build four schools in regional Victoria and outer urban areas. A feasibility study is investigating the need for a new school near the Port Melbourne or Docklands areas.
Melbourne’s lord mayor, Robert Doyle, expects a primary school will be built in Docklands within the next 10 years. But the neighbouring Port Phillip council is sceptical. “If a Docklands school is built, it won’t be enough to ease the enrolment pressure on our primary schools,” says the city’s acting mayor, Judith Klepner.
She says the recent rebuilding of Albert Park College is a classic example of the complexities governments face in inner urban renewal; planning problems and site decontamination delayed the school’s opening for two years.
Being slow to respond to rapid population growth and pent-up demand for decent services is what politicians in the former state government admit they got horribly wrong during their term of office. “We just couldn’t keep up,” Labor leader Daniel Andrews told The Age earlier this year.
DOZENS of schools that agreed to merge after being promised multimillion-dollar classrooms and buildings are now in limbo, with the Baillieu government telling them it does not have the money to fund them.
Parents and teachers say they are frustrated and disappointed after agreeing to amalgamate and, in many cases, embarking on costly redevelopments – only to find the projects may not get off the ground for several years.
Education Department figures show there are currently 38 so-called “school regeneration projects” – each involving two or more schools – which started under the former Labor government but will now require an estimated $750 million from the new government to complete. Of those projects, 25 have been partly funded and another 13 have received no money.
Some of these projects are already part-way through construction and putting them on hold has caused great disruption to the schools involved.
“The community moved and merged under the promise of new buildings under Labor, and now the Liberal government has made clear that they can’t deliver at this stage. It’s disappointing for the community, as they’ve been through a lot,” said William Ruthven Secondary College principal Karen Money, whose school was formed after a contentious merger involving Lakeside Secondary College, Merrilands College and Ruthven Primary School in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
Under the regeneration program, schools with falling enrolments, poor results or old buildings join or relocate with neighbouring schools to boost education outcomes for students in the area.
The former government argued that by amalgamating small schools, funding could be rationalised to build new classrooms and buildings, improve the curriculum, and rebadge schools as education “precincts”.
But six months after the Baillieu government came to office, many of these projects have been thrown into doubt, after the Coalition made clear its priority was to fund its own election commitments before Labor projects.
Labor education spokesman Rob Hulls accused the Coalition of “putting politics ahead of pupils,” but Education Minister Martin Dixon told The Sunday Age: “A lot of false expectations were unfairly created among schools by the previous Labor government as part of its attempts to coerce schools to merge.
“While we would have loved to have been in a position to fund more school upgrades in this
year’s budget, our ability to do so was severely limited due to the federal government’s decision to strip from Victoria more than $2.5 billion in GST revenue.”
As a result, the upgrades could take years to complete, he said.
An analysis of the government’s school spending commitments also reveals:
- In addition to the regeneration projects in limbo, almost 30 other schools are awaiting funding for upgrades promised by the previous government, including Greensborough Secondary College, Elwood Secondary College and Essendon Keilor College.
- The Coalition has committed to building or upgrading 70 schools in its first term, but about half of those schools did not receive any money in the May budget.
- Most schools to be funded in the government’s first term are in Liberal or National-held seats.
In the state’s west, Warracknabeal Secondary College principal Tony Fowler accepted the budget was tight but said many families were frustrated.
His school – which has agreed to move to a new site as part of a regeneration project with Warracknabeal Special Development School and Warracknabeal Primary – recently completed a master plan but will have to stay put for the foreseeable future until it receives money to design the project.
“It’s tough from the community’s point of view because you build their expectations and then they feel let down,” Mr Fowler said.
Ringwood Secondary College principal Michael Phillips agreed. His school is one of seven merging into five to improve the standard of education in the Maroondah area, in Melbourne’s outer east. He said he was confident of securing funding in the future but added: “With no certainty the frustration levels remain a bit high.”
At William Ruthven Secondary College, principal Ms Money says her school is awaiting funds for stage 2 of its redevelopment: a new building for years 7 to 9, a building for senior students, and a gym.
At Horsham College, everyone is baffled. The school did not get any budget funding to start a $20 million project to rebuild on the site of the town’s old technical college. Instead, the government funded a special school, to be built on part of the college’s senior campus – where students still study.
“We’re really up in arms because I don’t think people realise how disruptive that’s going to be,” said school council president Peter French.
UPDATE 10.50am: ENCOURAGING people to live in regional centres and parts of metropolitan Melbourne would help prevent the city’s population explosion creating urban sprawl, the Baillieu Government says.
Melbourne is experiencing a population surge, growing faster than any other Australian city, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal.
The figures show Melbourne’s population boon accounted for one third of the nation’s growth in 2009-10.
State Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the growth was sustainable if it was properly managed.
“It’s sustainable if we manage population growth and we actually manage where people are living and the places where growth will occur,” he said.
He said the government wanted to prevent urban sprawl by providing incentives for people to move to regional centres and metropolitan areas with good infrastructure and employment opportunities.
“I don’t think anyone believes that the city can grow to Warragul for example or Seymour or beyond,” he told ABC Radio this morning.
“We need to look at sites in and around the Melbourne metropolitan area and the city area clearly where there is very strong demand and where we can accommodate large population change and population growth around existing transport services, close to employment.”
Melbourne’s population increased by 79,000 last year to help push Australia’s population up by 257,800.
On our outer-suburban fringes, Wyndham (up 8.8%), Melton (7.1%), Cardinia (6.7%) and Whittlesea (6.1%) were the country’s four fastest-growing areas.
Overall, the growth rate of Australian capital cities dropped from 2.2 per cent in 2008-09 to 1.8 per cent in the most recent study.
Darwin’s growth slowed the most, followed by Perth.
The significant Melbourne growth rate now puts the city within 500,000 people of Sydney, that remains the country’s most populated city.
It is the first time in 30 years Melbourne’s population has come so close to Sydney’s, whose population increased by 75,600 people.
At June 30 last year Sydney had 4.575 million people to Melbourne’s 4.077 million.
It comes amid revelations a new mini-suburb is being created in Melbourne’s inner west.
About 1000 homes, a supermarket, library and medical centre will be built on the Bradmill factory site in Yarraville after the Baillieu Government fast-tracked a $1 billion development for an old industrial site.
The 26ha Yarraville Gardens Estate, 8km from the CBD and close to public transport, will form a new neighbourhood activity centre. It is bounded by Francis St, McIvor reserve, the West Gate Freeway and the Newport goods rail line.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy said yesterday he had rezoned the project after long delays with the Brumby government.
“We believe this is a good site for inner-city urban renewal and we should get on with it,” he told the Herald Sun.
“We brought it forward in an attempt to build the supply that’s needed. It offers people on transport links close to the city the chance to live in a nice suburb with good facilities around it.”
Other inner-suburban sites earmarked for housing include Fishermans Bend, VicRoads in Kew and E-Gate in West Melbourne.
A Bill to set up a new urban renewal authority is expected before Parliament soon.
Mr Guy said approval of the Yarraville site complemented the Government’s move to increase land supply in outer growth areas.
“The Baillieu Government is delivering on its target to release 50,000 lots this year,” he said.
Meanwhile, Australand yesterday announced a new public and social housing estate on an 18ha site in Westmeadows, 17km northwest of the CBD.
The Valley Park redevelopment will include 230 private homes, 110 social housing dwellings and 35 aged-care units.